This week, I read The Zombies of Mesmer by O.M. Grey. It’s a fun novel that essentially re-imagines Buffy the Vampire Slayer in Dickensian London and gave her cool steampunk gadgets to fight with. In this case, the vampire slayer is Nicole Knickerbocker Hawthorn, nicknamed Nicky Nick. Her mentor is a nanny that combines elements of Buffy’s Willow and Giles with Mary Poppins. Like many episodes of Buffy, the threat of the vampires comes more from their numbers than from the cunning or strength of one particular vampire, which allows the gadgetry to be used to good effect. As with many Buffy episodes, the villain turns out not to be a vampire, but a human with evil designs. In this case, Ms. Grey gives her villain an appropriate steampunk twist, making him a mad doctor, attempting to turn the population of London into zombies through the power of machine-enhanced mesmerism.
A journal entry about steampunk-themed vampire hunters would be incomplete without at least mentioning Gail Carriger’s Alexia Tarabotti. Miss Tarabotti isn’t a vampire slayer per se. However, the novel Soulless starts when Miss Tarabotti slays a rather rude vampire with her parasol and a hair stick. She is a preternatural—a person without a soul and in in times past, preternaturals were, indeed vampire slayers. Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate novels show how the Victorian age is a great setting for a vampire story. The period is excellent for seeing how creatures of the night either skulk about the edges of society or try to shape its very nature.
Another delightful steampunk vampire slayer is Chantal Noir, imagined by Christine Morgan. Like Buffy and O.M. Grey’s Nicky Nick, Chantal kicks some serious vampire butt. However, she reminds me more of an amalgam of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. She teams up with Constable Arthur Pearce and packs an impressive array of gadgets for battling monsters. You can find stories featuring Chantal Noir in Volume 8, issue 4 of Tales of the Talisman and in the forthcoming anthology Steampunk Cthulhu. As an extra bonus, Tales of the Talisman volume 8, issue 4 also includes O.M. Grey’s story “Lost and Found” which doesn’t feature vampires but does feature an interesting take on reanimating the dead.
Our modern world owes a lot to strong nineteenth century women who stood their ground and fought for what’s right. Steampunk allows us to imagine what it would have been like if they had some science fictional technology in their hands. It’s enough to make even the most frightening vampire run scared.